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Business is Buzzing for These INFB Members
Indiana Ag Connection - 09/14/2023

When Steve Neff of Freedom Hills Farms, Walkerton, Ind., retired from working for the state back in 2009, he wanted something to do with his extra time. Beekeeping seemed like a good fit.

“After working for the state for 37 years, I thought I’d maintain a couple of beehives in my spare time,” Neff says. “I really enjoyed it and started to get serious about it. The next thing I knew, I had a lot of beehives.”

A year later, Neff’s wife retired and joined the bee business. They divided the labor and made it a partnership. She handles marketing and product design, and he manages beekeeping, production and packaging. Neff runs about 100 bee colonies in Marshall and Starke counties. The couple produces some wholesale honey and beeswax, but they mainly sell honey retail at country stores and farmers markets in Mishawaka and Plymouth, Ind.

“It was a hobby that got out of control, and now it is a business,” Neff says.

Tips for starting out

Freedom Hills Farms also sells bees to new beekeepers. Neff notes that it is best to buy local bees that are already acclimated to the climate. Northern Indiana has interesting weather patterns due to the proximity to Lake Michigan, so he recommends getting bees already used to withstanding the lake effect.

A new beekeeper also needs the proper equipment, including bee boxes or hives and frames. These are the dividers within the box that help to extract honey. Neff stresses the importance of wearing protective gear when working with bees.

“Don’t be silly or try to be macho,” he says. “Get a bee suit, and wear the veil and gloves.”


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